Wednesday, May 2, 2007

left and right wing family values

an idea that i keep circling around is the idea of the family in politics.

i come at it from two angles - firstly "love makes a family" and "we are family" (a la Mardi Gras) in queer community. i certainly call jan and jessie (and the chooks) my family. against us are those who preclude us from their "family values"

the second is George Lakoff's book "Don't think of an elephant", which argues that conservatives and progressives each frame the world in terms of different images of the ideal family - conservatives imagine a scary world with a patriarch protecting the family; progressives trust children and nurture them.

i've been reading Hage's White Nation (which is absolutely f*cking brilliant, if you ask me, i'm so excited by it). he talks about White nationalism, and argues that there are more similarities than differences between exclusionary nationalism (like Pauline Hanson) and tolerant multiculturalism. He argues that both enact a fantasy of White managerial control over the nation - "you can live here, they can be there, but we don't want them over there." It's a brilliant argument, and I find myself almost highlighting whole pages - the detail is so thorough.

anyway, so these two ideas are starting to come together in my head. i think that those who think in a family metaphor (ie progressives and conservatives) are those who see it as their business to control the nation - paternal and maternal figures of different varieties. both believing that it is their duty/right to control.

then i started thinking about all the different forms of parental control (none of these are meant to be devaluing observations, I'm just trying to understand the dynamics) - feminists who want to enact stricter laws in the areas of pornography or prostitution, charity workers who want to help the "starving children of Africa", strong leaders who "protect" us from terrorism, leaders who endeavour to protect us from censorship ... and not just these, also progressives who argue that we should speak in a particular way about particular issues (we need guidance) ...

anyway, and then i got thinking about consumer/carer politics (e.g. in mental health groups, carer lobbyists are predominantly fathers of schizophrenics), and the literal and symbolic parental dynamics there (ie carers have typically fought for better services, consumers for a voice).

Something that Hage argues that is striking a very loud chord in my head at the moment, is the idea that those who wish to manage multiculturalism (or arguably any other form of diversity) silence those they are managing, objectifying them. This resonates really loudly for me, and links up with some writing I've done on the politics of volunteering. ... anyway, it's study time for this bug.

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